Top 10 origins of Tasmanians
With migrants from almost every country in the world, Australia is one of the most cosmopolitan nations on earth. Tasmanias population contains a larger proportion of people of European origin, although this is changing gradually.
The last full-blooded Aborigine in Tasmania died in 1876. When Tasmania was settled in 1803, there appear to have been between 3,000 and 7,000 original Tasmanians already here. It is an unfortunate fact that by the time sheep grazing dominated the grasslands between Launceston and Hobart in 1824, the numbers of Tasmanians who remained represented a tiny fraction of the original population. On the other hand, about 16,000 people claim Tasmanian Aboriginal ancestry today.
Most Tasmanians are Australian-born, or had at least one parent born in Australia. The figures from the 2006 Census show the origins of migrants and those born here. And they show that overwhelmingly Tasmanians came from Britain and, to a much lesser extent, from the rest of Europe.
Of the half million residents of Tasmania, recent migrants and those who are descended through generations in the State, the vast majority - in the hundreds of thousands - trace their roots back to England. The next highest groupings - in the tens of thousands - have AngloSaxon-Celtic backgrounds, and then the numbers of mostly other European groups drop away quickly to the low thousands. For an idea of what Britain must have been like, in terms of culture and demographic, say, one hundred years ago, you could do little better than spend time in Tasmania. This may impress you, or it may depress you, but there you have it: Tasmania is the last cultural outpost of the British Empire.
Through the 1800s more than thirty percent of all migrants to Tasmania were from Ireland, but it must be remembered that Ireland, or what we now call the Republic of Ireland, was part of the United Kingdom until 1922. Many of the early Irish immigrants came to Tasmania as unskilled labourers but their descendants carved out a solid place in society and at least half a dozen Premiers of the State could trace their roots back to Ireland.
The third largest migrant group in Tasmania are the Scots. They were also numerous among the early settlers in the colony. Many set up small farms, often in the Midlands of Tasmania, where both the terrain and the climate reminded them of the Highlands of Scotland.
The Germans are the only non-AngloSaxon-Celtic grouping in Tasmania who number more than ten thousand. A few thousand German migrants came to Tasmania in the second half of the 1800s but most arrived from the early 1950s onwards. In the main, these later arrivals came to work on the hydro-electric construction projects. Today, members of the German community are well established in business and in the professions.
The first European to sight the island that would later bear his name was a Dutchman, Abel Tasman. However, the Dutch did not settle the land. That was left, much later, to the British. There were virtually no people of Dutch origin in Tasmania until 1947. Then, over the next eight years, about 3,500 people came to Tasmania from Holland. Today, the Dutch are thoroughly integrated into the general community and many have become successful in a wide variety of commercial undertakings.
Shortly after the 2nd World War a few thousand Italians migrated to Tasmania, mostly to work on the hydro-electric schemes. They later settled, in the main, in the Hobart area and there are successful families today who created a profile for themselves in the restaurant and wine industries.
A few hundred Chinese workers came to Tasmania in the late-1800s to work in the tin mines. Many returned home years later but some stayed and turned to business or to market gardening. There have been other arrivals since the 1960s but the number of people in Tasmania whose ancestry goes back to China is less than four thousand.
Some 1,500 Poles came to Tasmania from 1947 to work, along with Germans, Italians and other smaller groups of Europeans, in the construction of the new hydro schemes. There is a Polish Association and Club in Tasmania and the few thousand in the community focus their energies on cultural activities rather than the political goals that united them before the collapse of the communist regime in Poland in 1989.
The Welsh are another small group in Tasmania. They are hardly identifiable as a separate community and, according to their local Society, those who migrate here seldom return to Wales. Tasmania, they remark, is warmer. The Dutch, by the way, offer the same reason why their forefathers found Tasmania attractive. Australian mainlanders who imagine that Tasmania is bleak should take note: Vast civilisations have developed in Europe and north America where the climate is decidedly colder than in Tasmania.
Hundreds of thousands of New Zealanders have moved to Australia over many years. However, only a few thousand have made their home in Tasmania. Thankfully most have opted for the warmer climate of Queensland or the economic opportunities available in Sydney and Melbourne. Perhaps the weather in Tasmania is so similar to that of New Zealand that, if temperatures were the only reason, they might as well save themselves the trouble of relocating. The only legacy of our proximity to the upstart nation to our East, is that they insist on harranguing the WTO until they forced their unwelcome apples on us. Tasmania is free of the fire-blight bug which infests NZ apples and that competitive advantage seems to aggrieve NZ people to such an extent that they want to level the playing field. Sadly the level of 'cooperation' between our food and quarantine regulation authorities is so influential that Tasmania has been denied the right to protect itself from the unwanted pests.